How many times have you been told that? From my experience over 90% of Irish dancers in the top studios have been told to turn out their feet. Turn out is one of the most important areas in which Irish dancing competitions are judged on. Unfortunately in certain cases, an Irish dancer’s turnout can sometimes be limited due to their body structure, including their joints, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. For the majority however, turn out can be improved without having to walk up and down hills like a penguin.
Alignment Issues (The Problems) –
Most of us have a hip tilt of some sort. Often, in my experience, there is huge similarity in dancers with no turn out and an anterior hip tilt, which causes the glutes to protrude. In lay terms this means that dancers who struggle to turn their feet out have a hip which is tilted towards their backside muscles, causing them to stick out more. Cleaning up alignment has assisted in turn out from my past experience. This leads me onto my next point “Loose and Strong,” which suggests some ways to fix alignment and turn out. Hip tilts are usually a result of muscular imbalances in the body ie. muscular tightness, looseness, weakness and un-trained coordination. Affected muscles include; glutes, tensor fasciae latae and the sartorius.
Prior to the World’s in 2012, I, myself went and got a remedial massage focusing in on my Glute and hip region and found that 2 days later my turn out was so much easier, due to the loosening of all the muscles in the region.
Stretching of the hip muscles is vital to achieve turnout. More often than not, dancers focus on trying to turn their feet out so much that they end up tensing the muscles through out the hip joint. By doing this they are causing their whole body to try and turn their feet out, which in turn causes postural issues and can look awful in competitive Irish dance performance. Hip stretching is vital, so that turn out can be achieved in the hip joint as opposed to having to overuse the knee and ankle joints, which are more susceptible to injury.
Practice hip joint rotation:
Warming up the hips, moving the muscles around and ensuring enough blood is flowing in the region is very important when trying to increase turn out. Followed with regular hip rotation exercises, turn out can be achieved not only as muscle memory begins to kick in, but also as the muscles begin to activate and improve in their strength and elasticity.
Ball rolling exercises (to loosen), Thera-band exercises (to stretch), joint rhythms (to coordinate) as well as pelvic floor and rotator exercises are all proven ways in which I have increased hip rotation in Irish dancers, and therefore improved turn out, in succession with getting onto the podium. These are all further areas to look into which have worked for me. I suggest that if unsure about any of these areas, you seek professional advice from someone who can teach you to use any of the above methods.
If you want to win that badly, and turnout is holding you back. Take the next step.